Beijing's efforts to improve its media technology are part of its public opinion warfare against Taiwan, an expert attending a cross-strait forum said yesterday, while calling on citizen reporters to help push press freedom and democracy in China.
Wang Tan-ping (汪誕平), director of the state-owned Radio Taiwan International (RTI), said since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May last year, media exchanges and cooperation between Taipei and Beijing have increased. However, the relationship between Taiwanese media and their Chinese counterpart is complicated.
“While there is cooperation, there is also competition. They have become more open, but there are still many restrictions,” he said. “There are some breakthroughs, but there are obstructions. There are exchanges, and yet there are still doubts.”
Wang made the remarks during a forum entitled “Cross-Strait Media Exchanges and Cooperation in the WEB2.0 Era.” The event was co-sponsored by Ming Chuan University at the Ambassador Hotel in Taipei yesterday morning.
Wang said while the size of China's newspapers and of its Web and mobile phone users are much bigger than Taiwan's, Taiwan leads in the size of its of satellite news gathering (SNG) network, with 82 SNG units in 2006.
Despite improvements in Chinese media technology, Wang said Beijing still considers the media a tool for propaganda and opinion warfare.
However, the increasing popularity of citizen reporters could serve as a catalyst for press freedom and democratic politics in China, Wang said.
Meanwhile, Wenny Wang (王文靜), CEO of Business Weekly, raised the question of what the future holds for media that are heavily dependent on subscription and retail sales when free content is easily accessible on the Web.
Taking the US magazine BusinessWeek as an example, Wenny Wang said the 80-year-old publication was sold to Bloomberg. Although the weekly has ventured into China, it is barely surviving because it is not familiar with the massive Chinese market.
“They have been there for a long time, but they have had a hard time biting into the big pie,” she said.
China Television chairman Lin Sheng-fen (林聖芬) said he hoped to see media outlets on both sides of the Strait gain more and freer access, adding that he would also like to see Taiwan and Beijing relax regulations to allow media outlets to establish branches on each side.
Given Beijing's tight grip on the media, Lin said Chinese have taken full advantage of the Web to integrate civic forces. He expected to see these private forces help each side better understand each other and eventually bring change to China.
Yang Jen-feng (楊仁烽), president of the Economic Daily News, said as China is becoming more open, the outside world is getting to know it better.
The media cooperation between Taipei and Beijing is multi-faceted, he said, including content, capital, technology and products.
Yang said both sides were bound to develop a closer relationship on various fronts, including media, after signing an economic cooperation framework agreement and financial memorandum of understanding.